Governor Bryant is faced with an important and difficult decision: by 6 p.m. on May 7 he must decide whether to halt Willie’s execution or allow him to die. But the USA also has an important and difficult decision to make: whether to trust without question the judgment of the 5 judges who have condemned Willie to death; or whether to think the unthinkable and challenge the methods used by these judges in reaching their decision.
In cases where DNA testing is being considered it is usual for court decisions to be reached after a review of the complete trial and post-conviction records, examining both prosecution and defense points. This is what has happened in previous cases in which DNA testing has been requested. In Mississippi, for instance, a number of individuals, including former death row inmate Kennedy Brewer, have been released due to post-conviction DNA testing which would never have come about if the reviewing court had looked exclusively at the State’s case.
It is evident that at least two of the minority group of judges conducted their review according to this accepted procedure: the separate statements that they submitted show that they not only examined points made by the defense, but upheld them. Kitchens, for instance, found that
“Manning presented evidence at court that undermined the court’s case against him”,
while King highlighted
“a pattern of impermissible racial discrimination by the prosecution in jury selection”.
For the 5 judges, however, there appears to have been no such commitment to the usual procedure. With their majority of only one, they appear to have disregarded the usual protocol for evaluating evidence of guilt and instead used a different system: examining only the prosecution records. By this means and this means alone were they able to reach their conclusion that there is ‘conclusive, overwhelming evidence of guilt’ which makes DNA testing unnecessary.
If these judges had looked at the complete trial and post-conviction records they would have found overwhelming evidence of… nothing at all. Every point made by the State is discredited by the defense; and the State’s witnesses are found to be criminals who were given huge favors, of which the jury was not told. There is nothing at all here, then, from which to conclude that DNA testing would be superfluous.
At justice4willie we are extremely shocked that Mississippi is condemning a man to death without allowing him DNA testing. We are shocked, too, that it is prepared to forego the possibility of identifying a dangerous criminal (the alleged second perpetrator). What is most shocking, however, is the abandonment of parity that the judges appear to have resorted to in order to achieve these ends.
Will Mississippi, the USA and the world stand by and watch a man die, knowing that his death will be a direct result of the actions of the very judges who are supposed to guarantee him justice?